D&D 5E Druids and shape changing – I don't like it!!

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
I'm experimenting with spells that allow shapeshifting in less flexible and thus easier to resolve ways.
There's nothing that says shapechanging has to be anything like Polymorph, and require use of the Monster Manual as a separate player resource. Just make a spell that turns you into X, and put the stat block for X in the spell.
 

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Sadrik

First Post
I believe supernatural class features should be spells. In 9/10 cases this would work. It is simple and it does not set up special cases that have to be dealt with.
 

GX.Sigma

Adventurer
I certainly don't like the way it works now, which is that it really sucks at low levels, gets a bit better over time, and only gets really awesome at 6. I'd rather it be awesome as soon as you get it (whether that's level 1 or level 13).
 

S'mon

Legend
Ultimately the origins of this trope are in a handful of Celtic/Norse legends about wizards being able to change into birds, deer, and similar animals. This found it's way into the reasonably well constructed 1e Druid...

Yeah, there have been a couple Druids in my 1e campaign recently and I've been struck by how well designed the class is there - powerful and flavourful, but not at all munckiny. Whereas the 3.5 Druid IMO is pretty horrific.

Recently IMC a noble NPC lady reported back to her PC in-law after tense negotiation with a powerful and mysterious visitor: "...And then he turned into an eagle and flew away." That line worked great in my AD&D game, but would have been a big "So what?" in 3.5.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Shapechanging is supposed to be rare and awesome - not commonplace like a t-shirt with a wolf motif.

But why rarer than casting spells? What does it intrinsically have that is more awesome than magically healing wounds or diseases, shooting fire, becoming invisible, messing with someone else's mind, moving objects in the air, floating in the air or bringing back the dead?

It could certainly be higher level, but that's usually chosen after considerations of how useful it is, rather than how awesome it looks. And in 5e it's been possible to move it down in level, because they split the usefulness into different tiers.

This is more like an academic question, since I had no issues when wildshape was a lv5+ ability, and thus I would be fine if they decided to move it to higher levels again.

Rather, the only possible issue I see, is that a lv1 (or very low level) feature is a feature that everyone of that class has. This means low diversity within that class, and in general IMHO it's not a good thing.

But my primary problem with shape changing is that any good implementation that captures the idea of shapechanging quickly becomes a nightmare at the table because of the mechanical complexity.

That one is definitely a legitimate concern. Limiting the number of forms is one way, another way is limiting the number of stats that you need to recalculate when you wildshape.

I believe supernatural class features should be spells. In 9/10 cases this would work. It is simple and it does not set up special cases that have to be dealt with.

Of that design approach, I would like the fact that it ends up "de-siloing" everything, so that you don't have to be always restricted to X uses of a feature per day.

But for some reason, it seems gamers just love to collect "class features" on their character sheet, and hate dead levels with a passion, so anything that fills dead levels is very useful for the designers.

I certainly don't like the way it works now, which is that it really sucks at low levels, gets a bit better over time, and only gets really awesome at 6. I'd rather it be awesome as soon as you get it (whether that's level 1 or level 13).

Haven't seen in it play, but why do you think it sucks? If it means "sucks at combat" then it's by choice, because the lesser forms are meant for non-combat purposes, mostly travel (incl. swimming and flying) and infiltration/going unnoticed. But these are not useless features, and hardly suck IMO.

Recently IMC a noble NPC lady reported back to her PC in-law after tense negotiation with a powerful and mysterious visitor: "...And then he turned into an eagle and flew away." That line worked great in my AD&D game, but would have been a big "So what?" in 3.5.

Heh... sense of wonder is tricky to achieve in a game where half the PC/NPC cast spells.

Incidentally, wildshaping into an eagle requires level 9, the same level at which acleric gets Raise Dead: "Nobody dies in our town except the very elderly, we keep a couple of lv9 Clerics on tenure here".
 


GX.Sigma

Adventurer
Haven't seen in it play, but why do you think it sucks? If it means "sucks at combat" then it's by choice, because the lesser forms are meant for non-combat purposes, mostly travel (incl. swimming and flying) and infiltration/going unnoticed. But these are not useless features, and hardly suck IMO.
At level 2, you can change into a dog twice per day. This doesn't change your stats, except for a faster move speed and a bonus to perception (and you can't cast spells).

This is useful for basically nothing, and it doesn't feel cool. If you're a shapechanger, you expect to be able to turn into anything you want, or at least get a choice for the one thing you want to be able to turn into. But no, every druid can turn into a dog (which I imagine wouldn't be anyone's first choice).

At level 5, you get Steed shape, which again is basically useless (especially because it has a slower speed than an actual horse). At level 6, if you're a moon circle druid, you get battle forms, and that's when it starts getting cool. At level 7, you get fish and rodent, and that's when it starts getting useful.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
Wildshape should be a level 1 or 2 ability, the forms should all be the same ie not based on your stats so if a strength 8 halfling turns into a bear it is still a freaking strong bear, and it should be at-will.

But then again I like a class getting what is important to it and defines it early on, I hate extra book keeping and want things simple, I also dislike all daily resources like spell slots and smite evils.

Limit the power of wild shape by the shapes taken.
At the start medium and small sized land mammals like wolves.
Then slowly add forms that add utility and combat as they level, give them access to a bird/bat form around 5th level when wizards can cast fly and the party already has access to things like that. Underwater form at say 7th, small spy form around 9th, large combat beast at around 11th, etc...
 

Talath

Explorer
I actually hated the 3e druid for it's ability to shape change into any animal. I love the way D&D Next has presented druidic shapechanging. The druid has access to a few generic forms, leaving the fluff details up to the player. These are more general use forms, not battle forms. If you want battle forms, there is a druidic circle for that. You can emphasize a shapechanging oriented druid, or a nature-oriented druid. This is pretty much my favorite version of the druid presented in any rule set.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
At level 2, you can change into a dog twice per day. This doesn't change your stats, except for a faster move speed and a bonus to perception (and you can't cast spells).

This is useful for basically nothing, and it doesn't feel cool. If you're a shapechanger, you expect to be able to turn into anything you want, or at least get a choice for the one thing you want to be able to turn into. But no, every druid can turn into a dog (which I imagine wouldn't be anyone's first choice).

At level 5, you get Steed shape, which again is basically useless (especially because it has a slower speed than an actual horse). At level 6, if you're a moon circle druid, you get battle forms, and that's when it starts getting cool. At level 7, you get fish and rodent, and that's when it starts getting useful.

I agree that "dog" is not cool, but "wolf" and "fox" are, and are IMO what the Hound Shape is meant to be.

The increased senses are in fact what this form is supposed to be used for, i.e. simply to search for hidden targets (if the current implementation is underpowered compared to easily available low-level spells, then it should be fixed, but IMO the purpose is sound), in the same way that a trained hound or beagle would do. The form can also be used to travel in the woods or escape quickly, sort of an Expeditious Retreat of long duration. Less common uses could be to threaten/intimidate someone (as a wolf), to hide yourself if someone's searching for you or go unnoticed while eavesdropping/spying on someone's (as a dog).

Maybe it feels underwhelming to you, but these are far from useless. Clearly they are not more powerful than 1st level spells, but I don't see why they should be since Hound Shape is available at level 2.

Steed Shape is clearly (and explicitly) meant for transportation of other people or load. I'm not sure if 5th level is a bit too late for that, but again there are good uses for this.

Fish Shape for water breathing and water travelling, Rodent Shape for infiltration and access to small spaces, Bird Shape for flying are no-brainers. Once again you can argue if the level required is too high compared to other classes achieving similar benefits from spells.

All this stuff is useful, but it is useless at one thing: combat. And that's totally by design... there are a lot of people who hated 3e Druids because of the combat exploitations of wild shape, and it's because of this that WotC designers have tried to move all combat usefulness of wildshape under a subclass, and leave only non-combat usefulness under the class.

Personally I'm very happy about this approach, except that I am also ready for disappointment once we get the last playtest update that will completely destroy this approach and give once again combat wildshape back to all druids.

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Last word about shapechangers: I don't know why you can say something like "If you're a shapechanger, you expect to be able to turn into anything you want". What does it mean? Can I say "if you're a spellcaster, you expect to be able to do anything you want with magic"?

Because when I played a Druid I never took it for granted that I should be able to turn into anything I want, just like when I played a summoner I never took it for granted that I should be able to summon anything I want. Some spells used to work like that, e.g. Polymorph used to give you total freedom. Apart from the nightmares at the gaming table that this could cause, I never took it for granted that this is how it should work, i.e. to choose "anything I want".

For me the "sky is the limit" is a good feeling that a RPG can deliver, but it doesn't mean that a specific ability such as wildshape, polymorph or summoning must allow unlimited forms. The "unlimitedness" is rather something that exists in the future perspective, i.e. there is no limit to what you PC can eventually learn to do, but not like there is no limit to what your PC can do at any specific time.
 
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